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Ohio State tight end Jeremy Ruckert in line for an even bigger role this year

With Luke Farrell having moved on to the NFL, expect to see more playing time for senior tight end Jeremy Ruckert.

CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T - Ohio State v Alabama Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

With the limited use that we have seen from Ohio State tight ends over the years, 13 catches and five touchdowns feels like they are records for Buckeyes playing the position. Jeremy Ruckert came to Columbus as one of the best tight ends in the country coming out of high school. While the numbers might not be tops in the nation over the last few years, there’s no question that the New York product has been an important player during his time at Ohio State.

Ruckert opened up the 2019 season with four receptions and two touchdowns in a 45-21 win over Florida Atlantic. Even though he would go on to pull in just 10 catches the rest of the year, one of those was one of the most important of the season. With the Buckeyes trailing Wisconsin 21-7 coming out of halftime in the Big Ten Championship Game last year, Ruckert capped off Ohio State’s first drive of the second half with an amazing one-handed touchdown catch to start the momentum swing that would see the Buckeyes reel off 27 straight points on their way to their third-straight conference title.

Big Ten Football Championship - Ohio State v Wisconsin Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

In a shortened 2020 season, Ruckert and Luke Farrell were called on mostly for their blocking ability, but Ruckert did make the most of his opportunity when he was targeted by Justin Fields. Ruckert came up big in the early-season win over Penn State, hauling in two touchdown passes in the 38-25 win. The tight end would score against the following week against Rutgers before a quiet spell that saw him record no catches in the three games heading into the College Football Playoff.

Ohio State’s tight ends reminded Buckeye Nation just how dangerous they were in the Sugar Bowl against Clemson. Farrell found the endzone late in the first quarter to tie the game at 14. Ruckert would get into the action just a few minutes later, with his 17-yard touchdown reception giving the Buckeyes the lead for good. As if that score wasn’t enough, Ruckert extended Ohio State’s lead to 35-14 right before halftime with his second touchdown of the half.

This year Ruckert should see more off the spotlight at the position, as Farrell will be moving on to the professional ranks. Last year Farrell and Ruckert essentially split snaps, but this year Ruckert should see the majority of the action at tight end since there isn’t anyone in line who can really fill Farrell’s shoes at this point.

While Ruckert should see more time on the field this year, don’t expect him to turn into a guy who is going to be targeted 10 times a game by whoever lines up at quarterback for Ohio State. With the talent on the roster at wide receiver for the Buckeyes, Ohio State doesn’t need that from Ruckert. Instead they’ll mostly need him to continue the tremendous work he has done as a blocker. Ruckert came to Ohio State knowing pretty much nothing about blocking, but he has really blossomed in that aspect of his game as he has put more work into it.

Where Ruckert will have a huge impact as a receiver for the Buckeyes is down in the red zone. Olave, Wilson, and others will garner most of the attention inside the 20-yard-line, leaving Ruckert with some more room to operate. With his prowess as a receiver, as well as his great hands, Ruckert should become a popular option for the young Ohio State quarterbacks whenever they need a safe option to dump the football off to. It wouldn’t be suprising to see Ruckert at least match his five touchdowns from this year, and haul in somewhere around 20-25 catches.

Ruckert did have a choice to make after last season on whether he was going to enter the NFL Draft. The tight end did get some positive feedback, which would make it extremely tempting to move on to the professional ranks. Instead, Ruckert decided he wanted one last season in Columbus. Expect Ruckert to make the most of it.

Ohio State basketball suffered a blow yesterday when it was announced that Jimmy Sotos wouldn’t play again this year due to a shoulder injury that will require surgery. The transfer from Bucknell was injured on Jan. 9th diving for a loose ball in the win over Rutgers. The injury came at a time when the Buckeyes were already missing point guard C.J. Walker because of a hand injury.

Head coach Chris Holtmann was thinking that Sotos might be able to play again this season after some recovery time, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. Even though Sotos was averaging just 1.7 points per game, he did add to Ohio State’s depth at guard, which was especially tested when Walker went down with his injury. Recovery time for Sotos after surgery will be six-to-eight months.

The Buckeyes are currently ranked No. 7 in the country, and will be looking to extend their winning streak to four games when they travel to Iowa tonight to take on the eighth-ranked Hawkeyes. A win tonight would also give Ohio State their fourth-straight road win over a team that is ranked in the top-15, with this perhaps their toughest test of the season thus far.